It’s a bloody shame to eat at home just because you have no one to go out with. I’m a total dining out advocate – saving money is overrated with all of the amazing restaurants in LA. I used to be afraid to eat alone, but after spending weeks on the road for work, I’m much more comfortable navigating the dining scene solo. You just have to know which places are single-friendly, and which places will give you the awkward stare.
There a few tried and true rules for eating out alone:
- Bring a book or magazine, or a fully charged smart phone. If you’re new to dining alone, coming empty handed is a bold move.
- Once you’ve become more comfortable with the idea of eating alone, try chatting up the bartender. If he or she is not too busy, they’re usually happy to have the company, and might even pour you a free drink.
- Avoid family-style restaurants. I once ate alone at A-Frame, and I had a ridiculous amount of leftovers, which added to the awkwardness.
- On the flipside, tapas and small plates work really well.
- Avoid places that don’t take walk-ins; there’s nothing worse than coming in alone and being turned away… alone.
Now that you’re prepared, here are a few of my favorite places in LA for dining alone, ranked in order from spots for beginners to restaurants for the expert solo eater:
Sugarfish, Downtown, Santa Monica, Brentwood & Marina del Rey
Sushi bars are a great spot to try dining alone for the first time. While Izakaya by Katsuya is my favorite sushi place, the seats at the bar are too crowded and uncomfortable, reminding you about all of the happy couples around you. Sugarfish, however, always has a short wait for a single spot at the bar, and the Trust Me menu will allow you to sample lots of great dishes with reasonable portions.
Red Medicine, Beverly Hills
Most places in Beverly Hills are setup for business lunches, romantic dates, and dinner parties, which can be intimidating for the solo diner. What makes Red Medicine so approachable is the casual atmosphere and the first-come-first-serve bar area.
The bar menu has a few small plates perfectly portioned for one person. Try the banh mi, and be sure to try one of the beautiful desserts, expertly crafted by Jordan Kahn.
Terroni, Mid-City West
Once you’ve mastered the sushi bar and Red Medicine, try taking it up a notch to an Italian restaurant in Mid-City, designed for first dates and casual dinners among friends. But since Terroni doesn’t take reservations, you won’t get that condescending look from the hostess when you arrive unannounced. The bar area, while typically packed, clears quickly as diners are seated at tables.
Once you’ve scored a seat at the bar, the pizzas and pastas are a great choice. I recommend the Tagliolini in Canna a Mare (pictured below), or the Capunti if you like lamb ragu.
Speaking of lamb ragu, Sotto is a great place for communal dining with other foodies. There is almost always a spot or short wait at the bar or communal table, especially if you get there on the early side.
While I obviously recommend the lamb ragu, it’s also fun to order a pizza and watch it as it’s being baked in the Neapolitan pizza oven – a great way to pass the time in lieu of conversation.
Lazy Ox, Downtown
Lazy Ox is a great place to eat solo because it’s a relatively small and cozy space that won’t leave you feeling isolated, and the small plates are perfect for trying a couple of items. For this spot, be sure to come on the early side to guarantee a spot at the bar.
I recommend trying as many small plates as your little stomach can handle, but to be specific, the rabbit livers are surprisingly delish, and the burger is one of the best in LA.
Nook, West LA
For you westsiders, Nook is one of my favorite spots for a delicious meal in an unpretentious space with a large communal table.
While the space feels upscale and can appear to be intimidating, the strip-mall exterior takes it down a notch on the fancy-schmancy scale. I like the pot roast or the shrimp and grits, but let the knowledgeable staff guide you to a perfect dish for your palate.
Tasting Kitchen, Venice
If you’ve made it this far, it’s time for a bigger challenge – Tasting Kitchen on Abbot Kinney. One of my favorite restaurants in LA, it would be a shame for you to miss it just because you’re shy about eating alone. The communal tables are generally filled up by mid-evening on weekends, so come during the week, or come early. It’s best to leave your book at home at this spot and join in the conversation.
If you’re feeling even a tad bit uncomfortable, just wait until your food arrives. Like I said, it would be a shame if you let your fears keep you from some of the best dishes in LA. One of my favorites is the clams with chorizo broth.
Son of a Gun, Mid-City West
You’ve done well, expert solo eater, pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone. This is the final step, and of course, the most rewarding one. Son of a Gun is a very popular restaurant on 3rd Street that is all about communal dining. The only problem (which is why it’s ranked expert) is that there is typically a very, very long wait for the communal table or even the bar. Fear not! Grab a drink, make a few new friends.
Once you’ve finally been seated, you’ll understand why standing alone was totally worth the wait! Try the shrimp toast and the lobster roll to start.
If you’re still hanging in there, you should be proud of yourself. Eating alone isn’t easy, but think of all the goodness you’ve consumed along the way. Sure beats Lean Cuisines, right?